on the Jay Leno library jibe (you might not like this)

19 May

There’s been a little bit of fuss over Jay Leno’s monologue last week – you can view the offending spiel via Library Journal. He’s talking about the L.A Mayor’s budget cuts, and he says “People here in Los Angeles are upset that the mayor’s proposed plan to cut the budget of libraries… This could affect as many as nine people.”


So anyway, the City Librarian sent him a letter, and I’m going to take a leaf out of Library Journal’s book (or should I say ‘journal!’ Yeah – eat it Leno! You’re not the only comedian around here!) and embed the letter here:


I don’t want to rain on another librarian’s parade, particularly one who is fighting the good fight, but I’m not sure how useful getting upset about this can be. I very much approve of stepping up and fighting back when people criticise – wherever possible, I believe if someone says something derogatory and misinformed about libraries, we should use the same platform they originally used, to set them straight. I’ve tried to this myself in the past. But comedians… Comedians joke about stuff, it’s what they do. Leno has writers who write his monologue each night, and they pick something topical and have a go at it. Such is his status, it doesn’t even have to be funny (in fact he delivers this particular joke pretty badly) but it’s just something to say. Who cares? Much more awful things crop up in comedy all the time.

In the letter, Martín Gómez says Leno’s joke added insult to injury. Well yes it did – but the injury is so significant, the insult is really here nor there. It’s made a really bad situation infinitesimally worse, possibly. Admittedly there might be some ‘floating voter’ type potential library user out there who sees Leno and says ‘you know what? Libraries ARE useless – I’m going to decide against visiting one after all!’ but surely we can give people more credit than that. What might happen, though, is the story becomes (to the people who matter, ie potential users – we as librarians should have thick enough skin not care what Leno says, it’s a decent enough throw-away gag the likes of which we all probably make about other struggling industries all the time) about how ‘librarians got all fussy and upset – again’ when they were insulted, and look, they wrote a letter. Which would be a shame.

I want to make clear I am in no way belittling the plight of libraries in California, or their staff, or their users, or the commendable efforts of librarians to stand up for themselves. But you have to pick your battles. Sense of humour failure very rarely helps anyone – it has the potential to be particularly damaging for Information Professionals because of the joyless legacy we’re trying to shake off.

Despite this, I like the last paragraph very much. We should ALL do this sort of thing – we should be saying, as Gómez does, don’t take our word for how good libraries are; come and visit one. As I’ve said a bunch of times before – we can only show people what we do and let them make up their own minds as to whether they need us. The biggest threat we face is a lack of understanding as to our value stemming from a lack of awareness as to what we’re really like.

- thewikiman

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Roll up, roll up – get the low-down on the New Professionals Conference!

05 May

Back from holiday now, so here’s a second post in quick succession to make up for lost time… I’m on the organising committee for this year’s New Professionals Conference (run by CILIP’s Career Development Group), so here’s the inside track on what is happening.

Full details of the programme are on CILIP’s website – this year it takes the format of presentations in the main hall all day, with parallel sessions going on at the same time for those who want to attend them. So the main papers are delivered in two clusters in the morning and afternoon – simultaneous to the morning are Workshops A and B, and simultaneous to the afternoon are Workshops C and D. You can choose to attend one of those workshops (you have to pick just one, and each is limited to 10 places; you put down a reserve choice on the form, but it’s first-come-first-served so book soon if you’ve a strong preference) or you can choose not to attend any of them, in which case you’ll see the full programme of presentations in the main hall. The workshops are quite practical and address specific subjects and needs – so if you don’t need what they’re offering, don’t just automatically tick a box from A-D… better to attend the main presentations which are many and varied in the same time-frame. If you DO have a specific requirement that the workshops cover, it’s a great opportunity to get some hands-on experience in a small group.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, an extremely high standard of papers were submitted this year. We literally could have run two conferences (perhaps three) without any ‘filler’; whittling down all the proposals was a very difficult process. The result, though, is an extremely useful set of presentations, on diverse themes but united by the fact that pretty much all of them (and this goes for the workshops too) will give you, as a New Professional, something to apply directly to your career once you leave the conference hall. There’s a lot to make you think, but there’s a lot which you can actually do, too – whether it’s to boost your 9-to-5 job, your use of social media, your professional development or your career aspirations. I will miss the morning session as it runs in parallel with my own workshop – I’m absolutely gutted because Bethan, Laura and Bronagh’s presentations look mint! Hopefully I’ll hear all about them.

One way you can hear what’s going on in the main conference if you attend a workshop is via Twitter. I know some people actively dislike twitter and the whole concept of micro-blogging (I used to count myself among their number) but so many Information Professionals have embraced it that we want to make the most of it at this conference. There will be a Twitter Officer who’ll have an official role to tweet on the conference throughout the day, and we’re hoping to have screens set up in the foyer with a feed of all the #NPC2010 tagged tweets from everyone as they happen. (I believe this is known as a back-channel… oooh, get me. Incidentally there’s already an archive of #npc2010 tweets which is auto-updated as they happen, so check it out – distressingly, another event of some kind has since adopted the hashtag, but it’s easy to sift those out as they’re all tweets in a foreign language…) We’ll also be getting people’s Twitter usernames printed on their name badges – FOR THE WIN! :) This will of course be entirely optional, but for those who want to, their username will be on there with their actual real name too. Hopefully this will facilitate easy networking – it’ll break the ice, establish a way-in to talk to people, and of course mean you can get a head-start and build on existing rapport if you’ve interacted online already. W00t.

I’m leading Workshop A – The importance of an online presence: entering the world of library blogs and blogging. If you’re wondering whether this one is for you, here’s what it’ll consist of. I’m going to establish why I think it’s increasingly important to have some kind of online identity in this profession: how it effects your employment prospects, what you can get out of it in terms of professional development, and what Google search results on your name will be like if left to their own devices… (this bit is hands-on.) I’ll go through the various platforms and media used for blogging, and explain what is appropriate for each situation, and discuss all the annoying nitty-gritty stuff like registering blogs with Google, publicising them, generating traffic and so on. I’m keen on engagement with other people in the blogging community so I’ll talk about the community aspect of it too. There’ll be discussion of good (and maybe bad!) blogs, and I’ll follow up on this blog with a top-10 essential blogs for New Professionals, too…

The focus isn’t really on the content of blogs as such – I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone how to write. It’s all the other stuff that goes with it, simplified for you so you can get started right away, rather than learning by trial and error like the rest of us. The idea is you come out of the session enthused by the idea of blogging, aware of how it can actually be important to get online these days, and equipped with a bunch of practical knowledge it took me hours and hours to find out through searching asking questions myself… and you can go away and start a successful blog the very next day!

We’ve had a great rate of registrations so far, so get in there quick if you want to come. I can’t recommend it highly enough – last years’ was vibrant, vital, entertaining and exciting. There’s also still time to win a sponsored place, via a CILIP competition, too.

- thewikiman

p.s you can help out one of the presenters at this year’s conference with preperations for her paper, by filling out a sruvey as detailed here… Shiny Forager Blog Post.

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two new publications

05 May

Just a short post to mention a couple of articles I’ve recently had published – the below is copied and pasted from the Papers & Presentations page on my website:

  • The Library Routes Project
    An article about Library Routes, from ALISS Quarterly, Volume 5, no. 3: April 2010. It details how the project came about, the methodology and so on – the article can be downloaded here, in PDF format. This PDF is actually the whole edition of the journal, by permission from the editor – my article is at the back, the last one in there.
  • Why are we still defined by our building? (the short version…)
    The full version can be found below [on the papers and presentations page linked above]; this is a much reduced edition, published by Impact (the Career Development Group Journal), as part of the prize for winning best paper at the 2009 New Professionals Conference. Available here in PDF format.


  • The Unspeakable Truth
    This is a copy of the essay which was one of the winners of the LISNews Essay Contest – it’s about the future of libraries, and the positive lessons about reinvention we can learn from other industries. Downloadable here as a PDF.

So if you aren’t bored of hearing about the Library Routes Project, and you’ve sometimes wondered what the Defined by Our Building thing was all about but didn’t fancy ploughing through 4000 words of the full version, this is the blog post for you!

Thank you to Woodsiegirl who went through the ALISS article with a finely judged scalpel and made it a lot better. Cheers to Chris Rhodes for getting hold of the Building PDF for me. Bobbi and Buffy, you each get brief mentions in the Library Routes article, by the way…

- thewikiman

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the curve of engagement

22 Apr

On a number of occasions now, I’ve banged on about where we need to focus our efforts (‘we’ being the LIS community) in terms of marketing, promotion, advocacy and so on. I’ve mentioned in my own blog and in comments on other peoples’ a sort of curve of engagement – I suspect we may put too many resources into targeting those at either extreme-end of the curve, when in fact it’s those in the middle who we can actually change.

Anyhow, as part of my preperation for the Escaping the Echo-Chamber talk I’m doing with Woodsiegirl (which has yet to be rescheduled but I’ll let you know when that’s sorted) I’ve actually created a graphic of the curve! Oh yeah. There’s nothing new here, but nevertheless here it is – click it to go to the CC version on Twitter.

The point being, as I’m sure you’ll have worked out by now, that we’re wasting our energies on those who literally hate libraries and those who literally love them. The former are not convert-able, and the latter are already so converted they’ll be fine on their own. The regular patrons shouldn’t be ignored, which is why they’re lower down the curve; it’s easier to retain a customer than it is to snare a new one. But it is the currently indifferent we really ought to be targeting – those who don’t use libraries, but might do if we can tell them what we do these days. (People like Andy’s Dad…)

- thewikiman

PS: Caveats for this post – 1: obviously some attention should be paid to the superfans – they are the holy grail if they’re word-of-mouth advocates for libraries but don’t actually work in them, so ought to be treated with utmost respect. But they don’t need a whole lot of marketing to. 2: Similarly, I do think we should engage the actively hostile – wherever possible using the same media they use to attack libraries – but only to rebuff their offensives, not to try and market the hell out of them till they ‘come round’ and love us and our buildings… 3: Regular patrons are nearer the top of the curve than the bottom – this is because I’m talking specifically about marketing and advocacy resources, rather than resources per se – of course we should prioritise our existing patrons most highly of all.

I’m off on holiday for a bit now, so see you on the other side.

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